Saving Heritage and Rare Breeds of Livestock With the advent of industrial agriculture, many once cherished breeds declined in popularity to the point of extinction, or close to it. Our focus is to help save some of these breeds from disappearing forever. Heritage breeds are older breeds that were once common on small family farms. They generally grow slower to market weight for meat animals, or produce fewer and/or smaller eggs than commercial breeds. Many of them are also dual purpose, for instance Salmon Faverolles, a French breed from the 1800's known for their meat and egg production. Heritage breeds are also known for being healthier, parasite resistant, and do well on free-ranging on pasture. We want to help preserve these endangered breeds to keep genetic diversity in animal agriculture, and honor their history and contribution to family farms.
The 5 Freedoms and Animal Welfare First and foremost, our farm functions around the principles of the "5 Freedoms" of animal welfare, and providing our animals with Choices:
- Freedom from Hunger and Thirst - Freedom from Discomfort - Freedom from Pain, Injury, or Disease - Freedom to Express Normal Behavior - Freedom from Fear and Distress
We use these Freedoms in every single management decision that we make. Our homemade chicken feeders and waterers allow 24/7 access to clean feed and fresh water. You won't find drip waterers here, where chickens have to work to get a single drop of water at a time. Our chickens have refilling cups where they can take big, refreshing gulps. Taking dust baths and scratching for bugs and seeds are also natural behaviors for chickens. Our chickens have access to the outdoors during the day, with 3 acres to roam, and access to the coop to get out of the rain and heat if they choose. Having a choice of their own is a major pillar for animal welfare. Our chickens can choose to go outside or nap on their perches. Our goats can choose to explore and browse on fresh pasture, or stay in the shade with their friends. A popular choice for the goats is to see what kind of mischief they can get into!
Regenerative Land Management 100's of years ago, giant herds of thousands of Tule Elk used to graze up and down the state of California, eating and trampling everything in their path, and adding nutrients to the soil as they went. This is how our landscape evolved, and what is still needed today to manage our pastures. This type of grazing strategy, known as mob grazing, is very effective for soil and plant health. Plant matter is grazed, and then let to rest for extended periods of time, giving the roots a chance to recover. Trampled plant material to mixed with manure to create potent, natural fertilizer, and dead plant matter is not able to accumulate, so fire risk is mitigated, and sun is able to reach new plants and promote growth. With human settlement, Tule Elk are no longer able to complete this migratory path, and our habitats have deteriorated because of it. Monocultures of plant species took over, where diverse landscapes used to flourish, many native species of plants and animals are becoming endangered, and our soil is eroding and leeching unused nutrients. However, we can recreate the benefits of Tule Elk migration by properly managing other grazers, like cattle, goats, and sheep. It is our goal at CVHF to mimic what used to happen naturally, to help restore the landscape and manage livestock in a way that promotes soil health and ecosystem biodiversity. I could spend hours talking about the different methodologies, benefits, and projects we have in line to help improve the landscape around us, so if you are interested in reading more about this, make sure to subscribe to my blog and our Facebook page.
Rescue Work We are a business, and part of that is animals earning their keep, but that also allows us a little flexibility to help a few animals in need. Such as Nugget, a day old chick we took in from a suburban animal shelter that was born with only 1 eye. Nugget joined the rest of our flock, and was able to make the choices she felt comfortable with. Since she is visually impaired, Nugget would initially stay in the safety of the coop while the rest of the flock would free range. But that was her choice and what she was comfortable with. Now, Nugget has gained her confidence and joins the rest of the flock outside, and she enjoys scratching around in the dirt with everyone else.